Wigan's WHSmith to close - and in-house post office is at risk too
Wigan town centre has been dealt another hammer blow with news that its WHSmith store is to close.
The operator of the in-house General Post Office within it has also quit, throwing into confusion both the future running and location - if any - of the key business in Wigan too.
Smiths has been in the town for decades and occupies about the most prominent retail pitch in the whole of Wigan centre, and yet the stationery, magazine, book and entertainment chain says it cannot “trade viably” from the site and will close its doors before the end of the year.
It is another piece of sickening news for Wigan which has already lost Marks and Spencer, Top Man and Top Shop; stricken Debenhams looks likely to close its huge department store soon and Smiths’ neighbour the Yorkshire Bank is putting up the shutters in the spring.
It is widely known that WHSmith, which used to be in the Galleries until it took over the Standishgate site from John Menzies when the Grand Arcade opened, has been in financial difficulties during the pandemic.
In recent years it has twice been branded the UK’s worst retailer for its in-store experience but remains a staple of many a high street.
While being among one of those essential businesses allowed to stay open during lockdowns its finances have still suffered badly because a lot of its briskest trade is done at airport terminals which have been nigh on deserted for much of the past 12 months.
A WHSmith spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the WHSmith store in Wigan will close later this year.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to trade viably from this location and the decision has been taken to close the store as a result of the lease expiry in December.
“We have been working with Post Office Limited in order to give them as much time as possible to find a suitable franchise partner to ensure continuity of Post Office services within the town.
“We are disappointed to be losing our presence in Wigan and remain very thankful to both our store colleagues and customers for their support.”
To much outcry and opposition, Wigan’s old GPO closed in June of 2019 in a cost-cutting exercise and, like many in the land, decamped across town to take up space within the local WHSmith.
Now its future is in double turmoil as it seeks a new home and someone to run it.
A Post Office spokesperson said: “The operator for Wigan Post Office has resigned and the branch is due to close at its current location in December.
“We know how important a Post Office is to a community. The vacancy is advertised on www.runapostoffice.co.uk. Any move would be subject to public consultation.”
Wigan Council has been trying to reinvent the town centre as less of a retail hub and more of one for hospitality, entertainment and accommodation.
It has big plans for The Galleries, having recently announced its chosen developer for the £130m project which would include a cinema, indoor golf and places to eat and drink, hundreds of new homes, a new market hall and a hotel.
That is forecast to be complete by 2025.
But at the rate things are going, it will have to be thinking of rescue plans for other parts of the town as well, long before then.
RDI, landlord for the Grand Arcade, which has been in receivership for the last year, declined to comment on the latest developments.
Wigan Council’s director of economy and skills Becca Heron said: “We are disappointed with this news as we understand how valuable this resource is to our community, however, all town centres are currently facing significant challenges and we know that retailers need to adapt to this.
“We remain committed to ensuring the town centre is a vibrant and prosperous place to visit through our long-term vision for Wigan.”
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